A History of Deportations and What You Need to Know About Immigration Laws Today 

Immigration law act and USA flag.

Immigration law can be pretty complicated. It has evolved over the years to be one of the most misunderstood areas of law that cause plenty of confusion to those that are most directly impacted by them. Policies that passed many decades ago would likely be struck down today, as the debate around immigration has also changed. The policies in place today were formed on top of many years of immigration debates and other major legislation like the Immigration Act of 1965. Here at the Winterberg Law Firm, we specialize in immigration law with a focus on deportations. So what is the history of removal from the United States and how has it changed throughout our country’s history? We thought we’d explore this topic today and look at some relevant changes that might be upcoming. 

Immigration Law that Targeted Certain Immigrants 

Early days of deportations, removals, or expulsions were very different than they are today. The reasoning behind the removal of many people was not always based on immigrant status but largely dependent on integration and or membership in a particular place. Expulsions often had to do with labor shortages or economic circumstances in a certain area. Citizens of Massachusetts around the 1840s to 1870s, for example, often found themselves expelled from the state under laws that were targeting the migrant poor. This happened to be a lot of Irish-Americans that were U.S citizens. In the 1880s, US federal authorities drafted the nation’s first deportation policy. One of these first provisions passed by the federal government included the targeting of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese made up a great part of the labor force. Other deportation provisions also specified against prostitutes, alcoholics, and those with public charges. 

As the twentieth century rolled around, some of these policies began to change. Lawmakers would soon expand some of these restrictions to specify ‘second entry’ infractions. During the 1920s, a lot of these actions were largely targeted to certain groups, one being Mexican immigrants. President Herbert Hoover would get into office promising jobs for Americans and took drastic measures by deporting many and slashing immigration by nearly 90 percent. During his time as president, there would be a wave of what could only be described as unconstitutional raids and deportations, the likes of which would be quite unthinkable today, politically and morally. It would come to affect up to 1.8 million men, women, and children. 

This would become known as the great “Mexican repatriation.” The legislation and execution of such had some discriminatory elements to it. It also occurred during a time of economic calamity in the United States, as hundreds of thousands of people found themselves without employment and losing everything. Hoover was known to be under great pressure to relieve the joblessness numbers. 

Perhaps one of the harshest legacies of this legislation was the fact that many of those that were deported back to Mexico were U.S citizens that had never before been to Mexico. There were many individuals that were taken and dropped off without knowing the language. They arrived in cities in Mexico that they had never been to. The raids were documented as large-scale events, where authorities would show up, put people on a train, and see that they were delivered south of the border. 

In the 1950s, another removal effort occurred under immigration law. This was known as “Operation Wetback.” During this time, there were a lot of agricultural jobs for Mexicans who were crossing over at about 1 million a year. This immigration was unregulated, but it began to draw concerns as the reality of returning soldiers and competition for employment increased. President Truman did express his concerns with illegal immigration in relation to economic conditions in the Southwest. 

After 1965, immigration changed because of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The legislation abolished the quota system that had been in place. This removed a lot of the built-in discrimination in the system and made the process even across the board. Since then, the statistics on removals has ebbed and webbed depending on the administration in office. Broadly speaking, it has stayed relatively consistent throughout the past various administrations with the Obama Whitehouse processing the most deportations at 3,066,457 with 8 years in office. 

What is the State of Deportation Regulations Today?

Things have certainly changed from the 1920s and 1950s. Today, removal from the United States is the worst-case immigration outcome for someone who has faced criminal charges or immigration violations. The process for removing U.S legal residents or visa holders is different than for someone without documentation. There is a legal process that must happen however, and it involves removal proceedings. Most of the time, you must come before a judge. This means you have the opportunity for counsel. If you or a loved one are facing deportation, you should call a qualified immigration attorney that is experienced in immigration law. 

Concerned About Deportation? Connect With a Trusted Attorney

If you or a loved one is facing deportation for any reason, don’t wait. Contact an immigration attorney that is ready to fight for you. Call Winterberg Lawfirm in El Paso today. 

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Victoria Winterberg

Ms. Winterberg’s law school experience began after joining the Law School Preparation Institute while being a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She then attended law school at Washburn Univesity School of Law before formally beginning her career. 

Leveraging a unique cultural background and approach to law, Ms. Winterberg uses her expertise in immigration law to bring people together. She has extensive work in all areas of immigration law and has helped countless people win cases and thrive. Immigration-related cases often involve the most vulnerable in the community, and our firm is driven by our ability to protect our clients and their families with each and every case.